A Gentleman of Courage_ A Novel of the Wilderness
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain. The illustration usedin the cover is the frontispiece.
A Gentleman of
Frontispiece--PETER was the same Peter, but now he was a man
Copyright, 1923, by International Magazine Company.
Copyright, 1924, by International Magazine Company.
Copyright, 1924, by Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, New
York. All rights reserved, including that of translation into
foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.
Printed in the United States of America by
J. J. LITTLE AND IVES COMPANY, NEW YORK
A Frontispiece and a Centerspread
reproduced in Color from the
Original Paintings by
ROBERT W. STEWART
A Gentleman of
A Gentleman of
Pierre Gourdon had the love of God in hisheart, a man's love for a man's God, and itseemed to him that in this golden sunset of a Julyafternoon the great Canadian wilderness all about himwas whispering softly the truth of his faith and hiscreed. For Pierre was the son of a runner of thestreams and forests, as that son's father had beenbefore him, and love of adventure ran in his blood, andromance, too; so it was only in the wild and silentplaces that he felt the soul in him attuned to that fellowshipwith nature which the good teachers at Ste.Anne de Beauprť did not entirely approve. Naturewas Pierre's God, and would ever be until he died. Andthough he had crept up the holy stair at Ste. Anne'son his knees, and had touched the consecrated waterfrom the sacred font, and had looked with awe uponmountains of canes and crutches left by those who hadcome afflicted and doubting and had departed curedand believing, still he was sure that in this sunset of acertain July afternoon he was nearer to the God hedesired than at any other time in all his life.
Josette, his wife, slender and tired, her dark headbare in the fading sun, stood wistful and hoping athis side, praying gently that at last their long wanderingsup the St. Lawrence and along this wildernessshore of Superior had come to an end, and that theymight abide in this new paradise, and never travel againuntil the end of their days.
Back of them, where a little stream ran out of thecool forest, a tireless boy quested on hands and kneesin the ferns and green grass for wild strawberries, andthough strawberry season was late his mouth wassmeared red.
The man said, pointing down, "It makes one almostthink the big lake is alive, and a hand is reaching infor him."
"Yes, they are Five Fingers of water reaching infrom the lake," agreed Josette, seating herself wearilyupon a big stone, "though it seems to me there shouldbe only four fingers, and one thumb."
And so the place came to be named, and through allthe years that have followed since that day it has tenaciouslyclung to its birthright.
The boy came to his mother, bringing her strawberriesto eat; and the man, climbing a scarp of rock,made a megaphone of his hands and hallooed throughit until an answering shout came from deep in thespruces and balsams, and a little later DominiqueBeauvais came out to the edge of the slope, hiswhiskered face bright with expectancy, and with himhis little wife Marie, panting hard to keep pace withhis long legs.
When they were together Pierre Gourdon made awide and all-embracing sweep with his arms.
"This will be a good place to live in," he said. "Itis what we have been looking for."
With enthusiasm Dominique agreed. The womensmiled. Again they were happy. The boy was huntingfor strawberries. He was always empty, this boy.
Pierre Gourdon kissed his wife's smooth hair asthey went back to the camp they had made two hoursearlier in the day, and broke into a wild boat song whichhis grandfather had taught him on his knee in thewicked days before he had known Josette at Ste.Anne, and Dominique joined in heartily through hiswhiskers.
The women's smiles were sweeter and their eyesbrighter, for fatigue seemed to have run away fromthem now that their questing men-folk were satisfiedand had given them a promise of home.
That night, after supper, with their green birchcamp-fire lighting up the blackness of the wilderness,they sat and made plans, and long after nine-year-oldJoe had crawled into his blanket to sleep, and thewomen's eyes were growing soft with drowsiness,Pierre and Dominique continued to smoke pipefuls oftobacco and to build over and over the homes of theirdreams.
Young and happy, and overflowing with the adventurousenthusiasm of the race of coureurs from whichthey had sprung, they saw themselves with the risingof another sun pitched into the heart of realities whichthey had anticipated for a long time; and when at lastJosette fell asleep, her head pillowed close to her boy's,her red lips that had not lost their prettiness throughmotherhood and wandering were tender with a newpeace and contentment. And a little later, while Pierreand Dominique still smoked and painted their futures,the moon rose over the forest-tops in a great goldenwelcome to the pioneers, and the wind came in softlyand more coolly from the lake, and at the last, fromfar away, rose faintly a wilderness note that thrilledthem—the cry of wolves.
Dominique listened, and silently emptied the ashfrom his pipe into the palm of his hand.
"Where wolves run there is plenty of game, andwhere there is game there is trapping," he said.
And then came a sound which stopped the hearts ofboth for an instant, a deep and murmuring echo, faintand very far, that broke in a note of strange and vitalmusic upon the stillness of the night.
"A ship!" whispered Pierre.
"Yes, a ship!" repeated Dominique, half rising tocatch the last of the sound.
For this was a night of forty years ago, when on thenorth shore of Superior the cry of wolves in the forestwas commoner than the blast of a ship's whistle atsea.
The pioneers slept. The yellow moon climbed upuntil it was straight overhead. Shadows in the deepforest moved like living things. The wolves howled,circled, came nearer, and stopped their cry where thekill was made. Mellow darkness trembled and thrilledwith life. Silent-winged creatures came and disappearedlike ghosts. Bright eyes watched the sleepingcamp of the home seekers. A porcupine waddledthrough it, chuckling and complaining in his foolishway. A buck caught the scent of it, stamped hisfoot and whistled. There were whisperings in the tall,dark spruce tops.
Caverns of darkness gave out velvety footfalls oflife, and little birds that were silent in the day utteredtheir notes softly in the moon glow.
A bar of this light lay across Josette's face, softeningit and giving to its beauty a touch of somethingdivine. The boy was dreaming. Pierre sleptwith his head pillowed in the crook of his arm.Dominique's whiskers were turned to the sky, bristlingand fierce, as if he had taken this posture toguard against harm the tired little wife who lay at hisside.
So the night passed, and dawn came, wakening themwith the morning chatter of a multitude of red squirrelsin a little corner of the world as yet unspoiledby man.
That first day from which they began to measuretheir new lives the axes of Pierre and Dominique struckdeep into the sweetly scented hearts of the cedar treesout of which they were to build their homes at FiveFingers. But first they looked more carefully intothe prospects of their domain.
The forest was back of them, a forest of high ridgesand craggy ravines, of hidden meadows and swamps, apicturesque upheaval of wild country which reached formany miles from the Superior shore to the thin stripof settlement lands along the Canadian Pacific. Blackand green and purple with its balsam, cedar andspruce, silver and gold with its poplar and birch,splashed red with mountain ash, its climbing billowsand dripping hollows were radiantly tinted by midsummersun—and darkly sullen and mysterious under cloudor storm. Out of these fastnesses, choked with ice andsnow in winter, Pierre knew how the floods must comeroaring in springtime, and his heart beat exultantly,for he loved the rush and thunder of streams, and themusic of water among rocks.
At the tip of the longest of the five inlets whichbroke like gouging fingers through the rock walls ofthe lake half a mile away they decided upon the sites fortheir cabins. Against those walls they could hearfaintly the moaning of surf, never quite still even whenthere was no whisper of wind. But the long finger ofwater, narrow and twisted, as if broken at the joint,was a placid pool of green and silver over which thegulls floated, calling out their